Pi Hole is an intresting solution to a common problem. It removes most unwanted content such as ads and tracking scripts from your browsing experience and as a result speeds up browsing a lot. It also requires no additional work on any client so once its been installed you will have it on all devices in your house such as your phone, tablet, and laptop as long as you are using them at home.

What Pi-Hole does is that it replaces your current DNS with itself. And the simplest way to describe a DNS is that it tells your computer where on the internet to go when you type in an address such as http://alltrest.com in the browser (computers convert this adress to an ip address such as 192.168.1.1 and then ask the computer at the other end for the web page). 

So how does replacing your current DNS (if you dont know what your DNS is right now its probably your internet provider) help remove ads. When you are browsing the internet and you load a page, that page will in turn contain ads, these ads will be on a location such as http://advertisement.somecompany.com. When your browser finds such an address while loading the web site it asks the DNS to convert it to an ip address to that it can go and get the content (the ad). This is where Pi Hole comes in. It has a huge list of addresses which are known to be tracking sites or sites that only server ads. When it gets asked to convert one of these addresses to an ip address it simply responds with, no, it does not exist, and your browser cannot load the content and you in turn don't get any ads.

So how big difference does this really make. Here you can see a website I picked on random, the left is without Pi-Hole, the right is with. I've outlined the ads in red.

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So what is happening behind the scenes here. Well when ads are blocked using Pi Hole it went from 150 requets to 81 requests. That is a 46% reduction in total requests needed to load the page. It also reduced the amount of data that was downloaded from 6.1 Mb to 5.3 Mb. That is a 13% decrease in data. This is a very noticable difference, all web pages I have tried load faster when using pi hole as my DNS server.

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The Pi hole DNS server also gives you a neat dashboard to see how much of the traffic is blocked. Here is a picture of mine. As you can see, almost 40% of my internet requests are blocked, and the only thing I'm noticing is a faster browser experience.

Kind of makes you realize how much junk is being loaded into a page that you dont need, or want.

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The best part about all of this is how easy it is to get it set up. All you need is a raspberry pi and low to moderate knowledge about networks and linux and then do 4 fairly easy steps.

  1. Install your raspberry pi, any of the operating systems from here will work: https://www.raspberrypi.org/downloads/
  2. Install Pi Hole. Run this command in the console: curl -sSL https://install.pi-hole.net | bash (more details here: https://pi-hole.net/)
  3. Change your primary DNS in your router, or on each device. It is much prefered to do it on the router, since then you dont need to do anything on any of the devices.
  4. Enjoy a life with a lot less ads.

 As a side note, I have installed my pi-hole on a normal pc, you dont need to use a raspberry pi, although that is probably the easiest way to do it.

I think most people really dislike mosquitoes and if you could do something to remove them from your vicinity then you probably would. Here is one possible solution to that problem: the Amplecta AMT 100. 

Since we moved to a house about a year ago I have been looking at different methods of removing mosquitos. There are several options, but most are quite pricey so when I saw this budget mosquito trap I was a bit sceptical, but it I just coulden't resist it and bought one hoping for the best.

Here is my review of it.

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First impressions

Right out of the box it seems to have a fairly sturdy build quality. It is mostly plastic but it seems like a pretty decent thickness. I doubt a few bumps or misshaps will do much damage to it. Looking inside it there is a UV Lamp, and a large fan (looks like something that came right out of a computer case, I was a little surprised at this, but whatever works). The netting that is supposed to catch the bugs also seems pretty fine quality, I've read in some places that the smallest bugs can escape this but most things I want to catch aren't that small, and Im sure this could be modified by placing a finer net around the bag if you really want to catch them too.

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The manual is quite thick, but this is basically the only usefull page with instructions. The rest are warnings in various languages.

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Installation

This was quite easy. There are only 4 things you need to do.

  • Install the mosquito catching net in the body. Really easy, it simply clicks into place.
  • Put the green "smell" cube in the top compartment (this creates a smell that attracts the mosquitoes). Hardest part about this was getting the wrapping plastic off.
  • Find a location to put it. The spot should be around 1 - 1.5 meters of the ground and fairly central in your garden.
  • Plug it in. The extension cord was quite long so it was rather easy to find a decent spot.
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Performance

This is really the only thing I or probably anyone else will care about, will it decrease the number of mosquitoes. After installing it last evening it has now been running thought the night, and it has caught quite a few buggs. Ultimatly only time will tell if it will make any real impact, and I will update this post as I test it more, but as you can see from the picture it is catching them with pretty decent success rate.

Here is a picture of the bottom of the net after it had been running for around 12 hours from evening to morning.

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One week performance review

The AMT 100 has now been running 24/7 for 1 week and I'm quite happy to say that it seems to be working quite well. There has been a significant decrease in the number of biting bugs in our garden. It does not kill of all bugs but it certainly seems to have removed or at least significantly decreased the ones that bite (and a few others too as you see from the picture below).

This is the contents of the bag after one week. There is a little bit of white cloudy looking stuff which I'm guessing is just pollen or similar, the rest are bugs or parts of bugs. When emptied out on the paper it actually looks like it caught less than it did. This is because most of the bugs that were caught in the beginning of the week fell apart as I emptied the bag. The bugs that were in the photo above (and were caught the first night) pretty much disintegrated as I tried to get them out. So everything on that paper that isen't the white cloudy stuff is a part of a bug. Most of which are of the biting kind.

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Downsides

After using the catcher for a week I can only think of two real downside to it.

  1. There is a slight smell. The green case you put in the top of the catcher has a slight smell to it. On a calm day I can smell it from 10 or so meters away. This will however vary from person to person. My wife cannot smell it at all even when standing next to it. The smell is not bad or strong, it's just a very faint hint of an odd smell I cannot quite place. It does not bother me at all I just sometimes notice it, most any other smell will be strong enough to cover it up, and to add some sort of reference point, all smokers annoy me from a distance of 50 meters or more and I can usually smell them before I see them. 

  2. Running costs. This is not so much of a downside as just something you need to know. Besides electricity you need to replace the green smell cube every 8 weeks. It's not expensive and it's not hard, but you still have to remember to do it and to order them online in time as I have not found any stores (near me atleast) that carry them.

 

Conslusion

If you have a bigger yard or a severe mosquito problem I don't think this thing is powerfull enough. The more expensive machines also emit carbon dioxide as a way of catching bugs and I would think this would increase the effectiveness even more. Machines that do emit carbon dioxide are available for around 4.5x the money, and if I had a bigger yard or more mosquitoes I think that would be a better buy.

But I do recommend this machine if you have a small garden (around or less than 1000 m²). For our garden of 980 m² it has definitly removed alot of the bugs and I would buy the machine again.

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I've been using the samsumg smart things hub for 1 year. It's a great home automation tool and during this year I have grown quite fond of it. I now take the things it does for granted and it makes my life just a little bit easier.

What I've done with it.  

  • Lights throughout the house that are turned on 10 minutes before I get up in the morning (separate schedule for workdays and weekends).
  • Lights are automatically turned off again after I go to work or the outside light is bright enough.
  • Lights are turned on 30 minutes before sunset.
  • Lights are turned off at 1 am.

  • Can turn lights on and off using one of 3 google homes located throughout the house.
  • Grouped lights into categories such as outside, upstairs, downstairs for easy use when talking to google home.

  • Connected a strobe light to a switch in the garage that my wife can use to call my attention when I'm working in the garage.
  • Connected a heater to a switch in the garage so that I can turn it on before I go out
  • Turn heater off automatically 2 hours after it was turned on (so I cant forget it).

Both me and my wife have gotten so used to the automatic lights always being on, you never have to worry about it being dark, I cant even remember when I last turned on a light manually in the morning like a caveman. And if you get up at an odd hour, you can just say "hey google, turn on the lights" and the problem is solved.

My biggest grief with it are the "hidden" cost. But the parts are slowly getting cheaper. For it to be any good at all you need a lot of connected parts such as the wall socket switches. I have some where around 12 of these switches throughout the house. As of right now they costs around 25 USD each. They started at around 35-40 USD a year ago. These work great if you want to and can connect an entire light fixture with these. 

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If you however want to automate a regular ceiling light (that dosen't plug into the wall) then you need to buy lights that work with the z-wave or zigbee protocol (that the smart things hub uses to communicate with the things). Ikea has come to the rescue here.

It was actually when Ikea started to make the automated lights that I got into this and bought the hub as before then I saw this as simply too expensive. But now with them entering into the market you can get a connected light for as little as 10 USD. Which is massively cheaper than the Phillips hue or similar lights cost. The only downside is that you cant set the entire RGB scale of colors.. But I think thats mostly a gimmick you get tired of anyways. The below light costs 9 Eur from Ikea. I have 20 of these around the house both inside and outside. They work GREAT.

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If not for these lights and ikea producing them so cheaply my excitement and the result of my home automation would not have been positive at all. The only downside to these lights is that they are not officially supported. But they none the less work perfectly.

So, all in all. One year later. I have bought lots of "things", and that is something you need to understand before getting into this. The hub is the small part. You will need to buy LOTS of additional things before this is usefull or fun at all.

As for the app itself (the only way to control the hub). It is good. I would wish there were a few more options but it covers almost all of my use cases exceot a few odd ones. The light blinker that my wife uses to call my attention that turns of 10 seconds after being turned on took me a while to configure. But all the standard turn something on at a certain time or trigger something based on another event are really easy to configure.

'All in all, I would buy this hub again.. and if you have been thinking about doing so you can now safely jump in to home automation and not worry too much about costs and compatability since prices have dropped significantly and most things just work.

Just rememer once you start, there's no way to stop yourself.

If you want to read more about the hub you can follow this link

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Went through my library of videos that I have taken during the year and put together a few of my favorites. I really like the Mavic, and have pretty much stopped flying my racing quads and opted  to bring the mavic to any place I go that might have some sort of scenic view. 

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I bought a Samsung Smartthings home automation hub a while back (link). Since then I have added several lights to the setup. The smartthings hub is compatible with many different types of lights and as of recent IKEA got themselves into the market and literally turned it upside down in matters of price.

Up untill a few months ago the best light you could get was a Philips Hue and those things cost 3-4x more than the equivalent IKEA Trådfri light bulb.

The best thing about the Trådfri bulbs is that they can connect directly to the Smart things hub. No other hardware required. So for less than 10 USD you can get a dimmable smart light compatible with the best hub on the market (right now). And if you want to be able to set the color temperature IKEA has you covered there too. For 15USD you can get a dimmable bulb with custom color temperature. Setting them up can however be a bit tricky. It's easier with the 1000lm light bulbs but not much hard for the color temperature bulbs either, you just need to add a handler for them before you proceeed (see end of post).

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 To set up (or pair) the 1000lm bulbs with your hub do the following.

  1. Set your hub to start discovering "Things" in the app.

  2. Connect the light bulb to a socket and hold it against the hub (yes touching it).

  3. Next comes the tricky part. You have to blink the bulb in a special rythm.
    • To get the bulb into pairing mode you need to turn it on and off 6 times in a row.
    • You must also keep to a rythm of on for .5 seconds and off for 1 second. It won't be discovered if you don't do it this way.
    • Go to fast or to slow and nothing happens. I know because I spent several hours trying to pair them before finding this thread explaining it. 
    • When it works the bulb should make a very fast blink after its turned on the 6th time (more like a slight dimming).

  4. Once they are discovered they will be listed as "Thing" in the app when you are discovering devices. When you see it in the app, give it a name, and Add it.

  5. The hub does not know it's a light bulb yet. To change this you need to load up the SmartThings IDE, located HERE.

  6. Once logged in go to you devices list. If you don't see any devices try clicking on "My locations" and select your hub (it should be listed there). Sometimes devices won't be shown untill you do this (I think it's a bug).

  7. Click on your newly added Thing (should be called what ever you named it), and select Edit at the bottom.

  8. Now pick "Zigbee White Color Temperature Bulb". It should look something like the picture below (with different IDs and names).

  9. That's it you should now be able to use the Trådfri 1000lm 12.5w E27 led bulb from the phone app.

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If you wan't to add the bulbs with custom color temperature you must first add the Custom Device handled for them from here. Once that is done you do exactly as for the 1000lm bulbs with the one difference that you select the custom device handler "IKEA-Tradfri" in the "Type" field instead of "Zigbee White Color Temperature Bulb".

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As of now I have replaced all my outdoor lights with the 1000lm lights and made them turn on and off with the sunrise and sunset. I have also connected around 10 of the color temperature bulbs indoors and set them to turn on in the morning before I get up.

It works beautifully.